Research Article

Road traffic and adverse effects on respiratory health in children.

BMJ 1993; 307 doi: (Published 04 September 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;307:596
  1. M Wjst,
  2. P Reitmeir,
  3. S Dold,
  4. A Wulff,
  5. T Nicolai,
  6. E F von Loeffelholz-Colberg,
  7. E von Mutius
  1. GSF-Forschungszentrum für Unwelt und Gesundheit, Institut für Medizinische Informatik und Systemforschung, Oberschleissheim, Germany.


    OBJECTIVES--To examine whether road traffic in a big city has a direct effect on pulmonary function and respiratory symptoms in children. DESIGN--Cross sectional study. SETTING--Of all 7445 fourth grade children (aged 9-11 years) in Munich, 6537 were examined. Of the children with German nationality and the same residence during the past five years and known exposure data, 4678 questionnaires and 4320 pulmonary function tests could be analysed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Variables of pulmonary function by forced expiration and respiratory symptoms reported in a questionnaire; census data on car traffic collected in the school district. RESULTS--Density of car traffic ranged from 7000 to 125,000 cars per 24 hours. Multiple regression analysis of peak expiratory flow showed a significant decrease of 0.71% (95% confidence interval 1.08% to 0.33%) per increase of 25,000 cars daily passing through the school district on the main road. Maximum expiratory flow when 25% vital capacity had been expired was decreased by 0.68% (1.11% to 0.25%). In contrast, response to cold air challenge was not increased. The adjusted odds ratio for the cumulative prevalence of recurrent wheezing with the same exposure was 1.08 (1.01 to 1.16). Cumulative prevalence of recurrent dyspnoea was increased, with an odds ratio of 1.10 (1.00 to 1.20). Lifetime prevalence of asthma (odds ratio 1.04; 0.89 to 1.21) and recurrent bronchitis (1.05; 0.98 to 1.12) were not significantly increased. CONCLUSIONS--High rates of road traffic diminish forced expiratory flow and increase respiratory symptoms in children.